Revolution Starts at Home, Says Bill Cosby
The legendary artist talks to The Root about his new book and how black folks need to help themselves.
That black people are not more vocal and more activist on these fronts bothers Cosby, he said, and seems hypocritical. "Rush Limbaugh and Hannity and people in right-wing programs are saying things about us every day," said Cosby, then pointed to himself. "What Bill Cosby is [asking] basically is, where is the fight? Five decades ago, we showed up and lined the streets."
That fight was against a different "enemy," he said. "Governors, mayors, presidents, secretaries of state" and, broadly, Jim Crow.
Black people led the charge that undid Jim Crow, and that's an essential lesson, Cosby said. That history is so important to him that he notes in his book some who helped make it. The name of civil rights icon Dorothy Height is the first on the acknowledgments page of I Didn't Ask to Be Born.
"John Hope Franklin ... Write his name down," he said, adding the noted historian to his own short list of important blacks.
Cosby's proclamations these days are grounded in his hope for black America, he said. "I'm optimistic because there are people out there working. I'm working and working."
He mentioned a project to keep young blacks out of jail in New Haven, Conn., which has one of the nation's highest black-on-black murder rates. He's glad that one of two young black men he recently met through that program is making his way forward. The other is back in prison.
The comedian also highlighted a recent trip to Greenwood, Miss., where, he said, historically black Rust College is still molding minds, but the black businesses that once thrived nearby have largely disappeared.
"People will say to me your words are very harsh," Cosby said. "They're certainly not as harsh as a [drug dealer] shooting another [drug dealer] boy and blowing his brains out over [territory]. Not as harsh as the stray bullet that paralyzes a 9-year-old child playing somewhere ... This is not a prediction anybody could see coming."
Changing the situation demands a concerted, communal effort, Cosby said.
"Yes, Obama runs for president and people jump up and want to vote. But [many of them] don't vote for the mayor or the dogcatcher and the school superintendent," Cosby said. "We want more activism, so the people take charge in the neighborhood. As I've been saying, the revolution starts in your own house."
Katti Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer.